Bringing the labor of my youth back to life

March 3, 2019 Howard Kenyon No comments exist

Sometimes you never know what ancient chapter of your life will come roaring back. Such is the case with research I devoted myself to for most of my twenties.

A year ago, Darrin Rodgers, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, contacted me through Facebook. He and others, including Marty Mittelstadt, Evangel University professor, and Jay Beaman were interested in getting my thirty-year-old dissertation published. A year on, the old manuscript, dusted off and updated, is going through the paces at Wipf & Stock, preparing to be published sometime later this year. Who would have guessed?

Back in the late seventies and eighties, I’d spent countless hours in the Flower Center, then known as the Assemblies of God Archives, bugging my eyes out on those ancient microfiche and microfilm machines and breathing in the dust of faded papers. Wayne Warner headed up the archive operation at the time along with his resourceful team of Glenn Gohr and Joyce Lee. I doubt the dissertation would have amounted to much without the treasure trove of resources they were cataloging.

There were certain antagonists bent on keeping my work from ever see the light of day, people disturbed about me poking around sensitive topics. Gratefully, others supported what I was doing, not the least of whom were Pentecostal historian Edith Blumhofer and denominational executive Joseph Flower, for whose family the Center is named.

In 1988, my work was completed and approved by Baylor University. Then it went into inactive mode, hibernating in the files of UMI Dissertation Service (ProQuest) which stores academic papers.

I spent the next seventeen years in Asia, quite unaware that the tome still had a life, popping up now and then as it did on the radar of some researcher who had the inclination, knowhow, and energy to extract it from UMI. One significant moment in its otherwise dormant life was when Cecil Robeck of Fuller Theological Seminary referenced it at the watershed event that came to be known in Pentecostal circles as the Memphis Miracle. Otherwise it slept.

I returned to the U.S. in 2007 and settled down in Oregon, quite unaware that I lived only four miles from Beaman whose work on Pentecostal pacifism I’d drawn on years before and who was continuing his research into retirement. We’ve met only recently.

Beaman and Mittelstadt are editors of the Pentecostals, Peacemaking and Social Justice series that Wipf & Stock publishes under its Pickwick imprint. The series focuses on a range of issues in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, including the three topics on which my dissertation is focused: racism, women in ministry, and attitudes toward war.

I’d heard of the series back in ’09 from Paul Alexander who was then involved with the series. I’d met Paul briefly when he was teaching at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Paul said he’d love to see it published in the PPSJ series. At the time, my old friend Paul Lewis was interested in having it published by the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio, Philippines, where he was academic dean.

Nothing came of those conversations. I had returned to the States because I was working through depression, was out of work during the painful Great Recession, and didn’t have the bearing to figure out how to bring the pre-digital manuscript back to editable life. Besides I was writing another book, Nightshift: Crossing the Cultural Line for the Kingdom, which I self-published with Fanno Creek Press in 2011.

My dissertation, An Analysis of Ethical Issues in the History of the Assemblies of God, seemed arcane, of little interest to contemporary scholars, let alone anyone else. Much to my surprise, the work still has relevance. And, apparently there is keen interest to have it available.

I too have always wanted to see my research more acessible to others. But it seemed a daunting process to make that happen, both technically and financially. Well, that process has been happening over the past few months and now the work is awaiting the meticulous oversight of a Wipf and Stock copy editor.

Sometime toward the end of this year, Ethics in the Age of the Spirit: The Assemblies of God as Case Studywill be released. Watch for it. While it still has the meat of the old manuscript, there is a new feel and some newer insights. And a foreword by Mittelstadt.

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